Stress, Multiple Sclerosis, and My Moment of Zen
'Control Is an Illusion'
I was recently quoted in an article in the autumn issue of Momentum Magazine. In it I summed up one of the most important lessons I’ve learned living with multiple sclerosis: “Were I to dig down into the sack of coping mechanisms that I’ve tried to employ over the years, I think that coming to the realization that control is an illusion has served me best. The only things over which I truly have any control are my reactions and my responses. I respond more thoughtfully, I react less harshly, and I assuredly laugh at myself more heartily than ever in my life.”
I’ve come to realize that I get less worked up – and less stressed – about things that I don’t control much in the first place. I’ve taken myself out of figuring the how, when, where, and why I focus on the "Now what?" and it feels so much better.
'Awk, Sure. It’ll Be Grand.”
A little bit of that Irish colloquialism (or Paddy Zen as I’ve come to think of it) — "Awk, sure. It’ll be grand" — has sunk its way into my head.
Back in 2013, when Caryn and I were having immigration issues that may have led to our being deported, people here in Ireland told us,“You’ll be grand,” and “It’ll be right on the night,” with such frequency that we began to believe it ourselves. And it was true.
We learned how to fake it until we made it during that very stressful time, and some of that way of thinking has settled itself into my being. I know that it’s made for a better life, and I also feel like my lower level of acquired stress has helped my MS.
On an episode of The West Wing, one of my favorite television characters, President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet (who also had MS), says that stress was invented to help market flavored coffee. I don't believe that. But stress is the body’s chemical reaction to difficult situations in the world around us. It changes how we think, act, and exist. It’s not a matter of refusing to enter a stress-filled room. It’s how we react when the door closes behind us.
By the way, I planted the bulbs of wild garlic in a large pot. Next year, after they’ve had a chance to take hold, I’ll replant some and set them free in a wild patch of the garden, so all will be right with the world.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.
My book, Chef Interrupted, is available onAmazon. Follow me on theLife With MS Facebook pageand onTwitter, andsubscribe to Life With Multiple Sclerosis.
Photo: Matteo Colombo/Stocksy
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